Health advocates on Sunday lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan for withdrawing from a webinar that was being organized by an international tobacco company, and termed it in accordance with the government’s commitment to control tobacco use in the country.
They were of the view that PM’s attendance at the upcoming webinar would have sent a wrong message to the international community as this was a violation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The online webinar – which is taking place this week – is about Asia’s role in global recovery in the post-Covid era, and will involve heads of cabinet from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia and Nepal, among other countries. This event is being sponsored by Philip Morris Japan.
Country Representative of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran said this was a positive development and showed the prime minister’s commitment to control tobacco use in the country especially in the youth.
He said the prime minister may not have been fully informed about the event and its sponsors; otherwise he would have refused to attend the webinar in the first place.
Imran said the prime minister should be careful in attending such events as the tobacco industry tycoons would use such events to cultivate personal linkages with the top government officials and influence policies in their favor.
The tobacco related diseases have been causing a Rs615 billion to the national exchequer per annum, according to a latest report by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics [PIDE].
This amounts to 1.6 percent of the country’s GDP which experts said could be reduced significantly by imposing a health levy on tobacco use.
Khalil Ahmed, programme manager at the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child [Sparc], said that Pakistan was signatory to the UN convention on child rights and the prime minister’s attendance at the event would have been a clear violation of it.